FATHER-DAUGHTER DANCE

 

“Where are you hiding, weasel?” Huntress muttered in aggravation.

A minute later, she heard footsteps and caught sight of the fugitive crossing McRory Avenue.  Giving chase, she rounded the corner in a sprint, her purple cloak trailing behind her.  “You’re not slipping away this time.”

            Her prey found himself headed down an alley that dead-ended in a dumpster and a high chain link fence.

            Seeing he had nowhere to go, she moved toward him cautiously, her crossbow at the ready.  “The fun’s over, Professor.  Put the gadget down, clasp your hands behind your head, and lay spread-eagle.”

            Instead of obeying her instructions, he raised the large silver gun and aimed it at the dumpster.

            As soon as she heard its rapid beeping, she fired.

            The dart entered his thigh, sending him to the ground.  He dropped the strange-looking device, and its glass tube cracked on impact.

            An expression of terror covered his face.  “Nooo!  You fool, you don’t know what you’ve just done!” he shouted.

            The gun whined and emitted a blinding glow.

            Frantically crawling toward a nearby manhole, he dragged his injured leg in an effort to escape what he knew would follow.

Huntress ran, but the light kept expanding until she could see nothing else.  She heard an explosion just before the light completely swallowed her.

 

            Batman was mid-town, watching the streets from his rooftop perch.  So far, it had been a fairly quiet night: a couple of muggers roughed up and an attempted break-in foiled.  Something must be keeping the scum indoors, he thought.

            Although there was no breeze to speak of, he heard a sound like that of a wind tunnel coming from behind him.  He turned around in time to see a brief but intense flash of light three blocks away.

            “Oracle, are you online?” he called over the comlink.

            “Of course,” came the reply.  “Where else would I be at this time of night?”

            “Check the scanners.  Is there a police operation in progress near McRory and Lassiter?”

            “Let’s see…nope.  No ops or alarms reported.”

            “I saw something weird a minute ago.”

            “Weirder than usual?”

            He was in no mood for her tart humor at the moment.  “I’m going to investigate.  Batman out.”

 

            Huntress awoke in a daze.  She couldn’t remember anything after the burst of light.

            Looking around, she saw no sign of the fugitive she’d been after or his bizarre device.  “Ooh, Helena,” she moaned, burying her face in her hands.  “You let him get away!  He could be anywhere.”

            At the edge of her peripheral vision, she saw a shadow appear, then disappear.  Instinctively reaching for her crossbow, she took cover in a nearby doorway.  Seeing nothing else, she moved out silently a few moments later and resumed her search.

            A deep voice from behind froze her where she stood.  “You could do some serious damage with that thing.”

            “Maybe I already have.”

            “Put it down and kick it away.”

            Whirling around, she aimed the crossbow, then dropped it in shock.  “Dad?  You’ve come back!”

            Batman frowned.  “What?”

            “It’s Helena.”

“Excuse me?”

“I go by ‘Huntress,’ but don’t let the outfit fool you.  I’m your daughter, alright.”

            He looked her up and down, taking note of the bare midriff, bikini shorts, and thigh-high boots.  “No daughter of mine would ever go out dressed like that!”  A Batarang appeared in his hand.  “Enough games.  Now who are you?”

            She removed her eye mask and got in his face.  “I’m your daughter!  Look!  I have Selina’s eyes and your nose.”

            He couldn’t deny the obvious, yet it made no sense.  Putting the Batarang away, he said, “You’re right…but it’s not possible.”

“Why?”

“Helena is four and lives in Texas with her mother.”

Huntress was confused, too.  “What is wrong with you?  I’m twenty-two, and Mom’s been dead for ten years.”

Which means you’re a fake.  Who put you up to this?  Who sent you?”

“Oracle.”

“That’s a lie!”

“Like hell it is!  You are so out of touch.  See, we’ve been after this criminal.  I had him cornered, and--”

“Come with me!”  He grabbed her arm and practically dragged her to the Batmobile a block away.

            Ow!  Don’t be so rough, Dad.”

            “I don’t know who you really are, but I am not your father!  Get inside.”

            “Where are you taking me?”

            “To the Batcave.”

            She groaned from the acceleration as the Batmobile sped homeward.  “Mom always said you drove like a maniac.”

            Batman ignored her.  “Alfred, I’ll be home in about ten minutes.  I need a DNA analyzer set up.”

            “Certainly, sir.  Anything else?”

            He looked at Huntress.  “Yeah.  Get Oracle over there--immediately.”

 

            The ride was awkward and strained for both of them.

            “I am Helena, dammit!  I don’t know why you won’t believe me,” she said in frustration.  “Your reputation as a jerk is well-deserved.”

            “I know my reality, and you are not part of it.  I’m either in an illusion created by the Mad Hatter, or you’re an agent provocateur hoping to drive me crazy.  No matter, it won’t work.”

            “I’m the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.  Put that in your ‘reality’ and smoke it.  How did she manage to stay married to such an egomaniac?”

Knowing there was nothing to be gained by continuing the conversation, Batman remained silent until they pulled into the Batcave.

When the Batmobile’s canopy opened, Alfred was quite surprised to see a shapely young woman in costume emerge.  “You didn’t tell me to expect company, sir.”

            “Alfred, this is…Huntress.”

            “A pleasure to meet you, ma’am.”

            She was so awed by the Batcave and everything in it, she barely heard him.  “It’s just like I remember it…only newer.”

            Batman removed his cape and cowl.  “Get a sample of her DNA, Alfred, and put it in the analyzer.”

            “Come, sit down,” the butler told her.  He picked up a long cotton swab and swabbed the inside of her cheek.

            With a soft ding, the elevator door opened.  Barbara Gordon rolled out in her wheelchair.  “What’s up, Bruce?”

            Before he could answer, Huntress ran to her.  “Barb, thank God you’re here.  Will you please tell Dad who I am and that we’ve been friends for years?”

            Barbara looked at her, then at Bruce.  “I’ve never seen this girl before.  Who is she?”

            Aggravated, Huntress kicked the console and stalked off.  “I’m Helena Kyle, Bruce Wayne’s daughter.  I’m not crazy!  Why don’t you people believe me?”

            Bruce took Barbara aside and explained the situation, at least as much as he could.

            “Do you think she’s telling the truth?” she asked.

            “I don’t know what to think.  She definitely resembles Selina, but that could be done with surgery.  And these things she ‘remembers’ that never happened…implanted memories?”

            “It’s always possible,” she answered.  “But why would someone go to all this trouble?”

            “Because I’m Batman, and they want to psych me out.  The League’s done it.  So has Riddler.  Hugo Strange.”

            She patted his hand.  “Before you start building some complicated conspiracy theory, remember what you taught me about Occam’s Razor.”

            “The simplest explanation is usually correct.”

            “Yes.  She may, in fact, be your daughter.”

            “That’s why I want you to do the analysis.  I don’t trust my objectivity.”

            She smiled.  “I understand.”

 

            Twenty minutes later, Barbara had two DNA graphs displaying on the large monitor.  “See for yourselves.  On the left is Huntress’ sample, and on the right an archived sample from Helena Wayne taken at birth.  When I overlay them, they match perfectly.  One hundred percent.  As bizarre as it may sound, Huntress is Helena Wayne, age twenty-two.”

            Bruce and Alfred were stunned.  Helena sighed with relief.

            “As for how or why she came to be here,” Barbara said, “that needs further investigation.”

            Feeling awkward, a very subdued Bruce put his hand on Helena’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry.”

            She nodded.  “It’s okay.  I probably would’ve done the same thing in your position.”

            Barbara moved next to her.  “Helena, in order for us to figure out what’s going on, we need to hear your story.  I’m sure this has your head spinning, but please tell us everything.  No detail is unimportant.”

            “Where do I start?”

            “You said you’ve been working with me for several years.  Start there.”

            “You have a small group of operatives nicknamed the Birds of Prey.  I’m one of them.  Recently, strange things have been disappearing in Gotham City.  A museum artifact here, a Rembrandt there.  No sign of forced entry or intruders.  They just vanished.  At first the police thought it was all a set-up, an insurance scam kind of thing.  But then it got weirder.  Guarded military jets, a giant sculpture that would take a crane to haul away, and people disappeared.  Rich and powerful people.

            “You put me on the case because the cops were totally baffled.  Long story short, we found the guy behind it all.  Professor Giles Portnoy, who calls himself the Time Bandit.  He somehow discovered the secret to time travel.  He invented this weird device he called a ‘time vacuum.’  It looked like a super soaker on steroids.  Basically, he would point it at something, and it would suck that object into another time.  We never found out where—I mean, when—he was sending everything and everybody.  We didn’t even know whether he was originally from the past, present, or future.  You suspected that he had found a place in the past where he could set up his own kingdom, basically, and so he was stealing everything he needed from the present day.

            “We decided to pull the plug on his operation tonight.  I went to his lab, but he had just left.  I tracked him across town and had him cornered in an alley.  He tried to zap the dumpster blocking his way.  I shot him in the leg, he dropped the thing, and it broke.  A huge ball of light came out of it and swallowed the whole area.  The last thing I remember is hearing a boom and being surrounded by the light.  Pretty soon after I woke up, I started looking for him again, and that’s when Dad—uh, Batman found me.”

            No one said a word as her story sank in.

            “I went back in time, didn’t I?”  It was more a statement than a question.

            “It would seem so,” Bruce answered.  “That accounts for the flash of light I saw in the same area.  When the vacuum ruptured, it must have created a time vortex or dimensional shift.”

            “Did Portnoy escape?” Barbara asked.

            Helena said, “He was trying to crawl away, but with an arrow in his leg I imagine he didn’t get very far.”

            Bruce shook his head.  “If he was that close when the device exploded, he’s probably scattered throughout history now.”  He got on the mainframe computer and did a quick search.  “Hmm.  There was a quantum physics professor at Oxford named Giles Portnoy.  He died in 1960.”

            “I guess that means I’m stuck here.”  Helena began to weep.

            “Portnoy’s dead in your world and ours…the device is destroyed.  Without either of them, I’m afraid you are.”

She removed her utility belt and cape.  “I’d like a few minutes alone.”

            “Certainly,” said Alfred.  “Come with me to the study, and you can have some tea in private.”

            As soon as Helena was out of earshot, Bruce turned to Barbara.  “Your thoughts?”

            She shook her head.  “Poor girl.  Whether she’s from a parallel world or our own future is irrelevant.  This is home now.  That’s a hard smack in the face.”

            “Could you take her in and help with the adjustment, like a big sister?”

            “Not ready to deal with a grown daughter living under your roof, huh?”

He gave her the iciest glare of disapproval she’d ever seen.

“I’m kidding.  Of course I’ll help.  She definitely needs someone to look after her, and since she already ‘knows’ me--or at least her world’s version of me--it could only help.  Besides, I like that ‘Birds of Prey’ idea.  I was thinking of doing something similar anyway, now that I’ve moved into the Clock Tower.  I’ll get her to tell me more about it.”

            “Maybe you’ve got your first recruit.”

            She adjusted her glasses.  “In time, perhaps.  She’ll need a lot of training first.  Too hotheaded.”

            “Agreed.”

            “I’ll take good care of her, Bruce.”

            “I know.”

            Just then, Tim Drake came running into the cave.  “Why is there a beautiful, half-dressed girl crying in the study?  Did I miss something?”

            Barbara gave Bruce an impish grin.  “I’ll let you handle that one.”

 

            After Helena finished her tea, Bruce visited her.  “Anything I can do for you?”

            She wiped her tears and forced a smile.  “Yes.  Tell me about Mom.  You said she’s living in Texas?”

            “We divorced several months ago.  It’s a little strange.  We still love each other…but in hindsight, marriage probably wasn’t a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“The risks to her and Helena—you—were increasing because of who I am.  Some of the psychos were trying to get to me through my family.  The situation is more complex, but that’s the gist of it.  She’s the head of Wayne Security Systems, where her background comes in handy.  She’s quite happy, and they visit when they can, which isn’t very often, unfortunately.”

            “Uh, if you love her so much, why didn’t you give up your nightlife and go with her?  Wait, Barbara told me once.  Batman’s the ‘real’ you, and Bruce Wayne’s the mask.”

            “Something like that,” he said.

            “I still miss Mom.  It’s gonna be weird seeing her again.”

            “What happened in your world?” he asked.

            “Well, you two never divorced.  Life was good until these jerks tried to blackmail her.  They were going to tell the cops she was Catwoman unless she did a job for them.  So she did, to protect us, and ended up getting killed.  You were so devastated, you left town and never returned.  I was only twelve, so Barbara basically raised me through my teenage years.  I gave her a lot of crap, but she never quit on me.”

            “She’s a wonderful friend.”

            “I feel like I already know her, ‘cause I do.  Sort of.”

            “What did you do for a day job?” he asked.

            “Senior Lecturer in English at Gotham University.”

            “Not a bad career.  Alfred’s preparing a room for you upstairs.  Stay here as long as you like.”

            “Thanks.  I guess I need to get to know you, after ten years.”

            He smiled.

            “What about Mom?  When can I see her?”

            “Let me think about that.  I’m not sure how she’ll react to the news.  When she hears that you more or less followed me into crime fighting as an adult…watch out.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she insists on little Helena becoming a nun.”

She chuckled.

“We’ll work it out.  I just need a little time.”

            Staring at the grandfather clock, she grew pensive.  “Time…that’s one thing I’ll never look at the same way again.”

 

            She spent most of the next day getting acquainted with her new, extended “family.”  She found it quite odd how they were so much like the people she had known, yet different.  Her Barbara hated strawberries.  This one loved them.  The Nightwing she knew was left-handed.  This one was right-handed.  And so forth.

            The appearance of the Bat-signal that evening could not have been more inconvenient for Bruce.  It abruptly ended his quiet dinner with Helena and, he soon discovered, caught him without a partner.

            At the first sight of the beacon, he headed toward the Batcave.  “Where’s Tim?” he asked Alfred.

            “In bed upstairs, sir.”

            “Well, get him down here.”

            “I’m afraid he won’t be going anywhere tonight.  It seems he ate some bad sushi for lunch.  Last time I checked on him, he looked quite pale and was, in his words, ‘throwing up my toenails.’”

            “Looks like I’ll have to go alone,” Bruce mused.

            “I’ll come with you,” Helena said.

            “Absolutely not.”

            “Why?”

            “We haven’t trained together, I don’t know your strengths or weaknesses, and you’ve just begun adjusting to your new life.  Really, you’re a stranger.”

            She followed him down the Batcave stairs.  “Barbara knows me and even trusts me to work alone.”

            Your Barbara, not mine.”

            “They’re practically identical,” she protested.

            “No.”

            “What if you truly need backup?  What if this is one time the mighty Batman gets his butt kicked because he’s flying solo?”

            “The answer is still no,” he said firmly as he donned his cape.  “End of discussion.”

            “Why won’t you at least let me ride with you, Dad?”

            He pulled his cowl on and glared at her.  “Why?  Because I don’t trust you.  I’m still having trouble accepting that we’re related.  So do not call me ‘Dad.’  Now, I’ve got to go.”

            Arrrgh!” she groaned in frustration.  “Your ego should apply for statehood!”

            “If I may, sir,” Alfred said.  “One evening working together could very well fill in a lot of the blanks about Miss Helena.  You’d certainly get your answers sooner than by waiting for her to complete a training regimen.”

            “For what it’s worth, I’ve already been trained--by you and Mom, and Barbara.  I know martial arts.  I’m very proficient with the crossbow.”

            “I don’t kill, in case you haven’t heard,” Batman told her dryly.

            “I know you wish I could go back where I came from, but that’s not gonna happen. You might as well get used to the fact that you have a daughter who’s as bitchy as Selina and as stubborn as you.”

The worst of both worlds, he thought to himself.

“I’m part of your ‘Bat Family’ now.  So will you please let me prove myself?  Unless, of course, you’ve already decided I’ll never measure up.”

            He looked at her, then at Alfred.  He wasn’t going to win this argument without causing a lot of hurt.  “Fine,” he conceded.  “Suit up and get in the car.”

            Alfred said, “Thank you, sir.  I think you’ve made a wise choice.”

            “Do me a favor while I’m gone.  Tell Tim no more sushi.  Ever.”

 

            While they drove, Batman looked over Huntress’ outfit again—what there was of it.  “We need to work on getting you a new suit.”

            “What’s wrong with this one?  It’s comfortable and quite easy to move in.”

With a scowl, he told her, “It shows way too much skin.  You look like a Mardi Gras hooker.”

“Says the man whose wife wore a tight-fitting catsuit.”

“That’s different.  You’re my daughter.”

She smiled.  “I’m also over eighteen, which means I can make my own decisions about what to wear, thank you very much.”

“The idea of men looking at you like….”

“Like you looked at Mom, Batman?  Houston, we’ve got a double standard here.”

“You remind me of her so much…it’s weird.”

She lost her jovial tone.  “Barbara used to say that.  One of the reasons I kept hoping you’d come back home is so you could tell me stuff about her.  The longer you stayed away, the more pissed off I got.”

“Don’t hate me for something the other Batman did.”

“Sorry.  I just need to blow off some steam.”

“Maybe you should save it for whoever we take on tonight.”

 

Atop police headquarters, Commissioner Gordon raised an eyebrow when the couple stepped out of the shadows.  “New partner?”

“New…team member,” Batman answered.  “Commissioner, this is Huntress.”

She extended her hand.  “An honor to meet you, sir.”

“What’s the trouble?” Batman inquired.

“Trouble is right.  For several months, we’ve had our eyes on this man.”  Gordon showed a photograph.

“Dante Carmona,” Huntress said immediately.

Batman was taken aback by her quick answer.

“Yes,” Gordon replied.  “He’s a rising force in the local mob, which you know has been in disarray since we apprehended Black Mask and Rupert Thorne.  I’ve put two undercover officers in his organization.  Both were sniffed out and killed within days.  Before he died, the second officer told us that Carmona has agreed to join forces with the Yakuza.  I don’t need to tell you how bad it would be if the Japanese mob had a direct pipeline into Gotham.”

Huntress nodded.  “Crystal meth, prostitution, gun smuggling.”

Gordon was impressed.  “You know your stuff.  But I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of Batman’s protégés.”

Somewhat irritated, Batman glared at her.

“Anyway,” Gordon continued, “we got a tip that the meeting is tonight.  If they see a police car within a mile of the place, they’ll go underground and we’ll lose our only chance to disrupt the merger.”

“So you want us to keep them distracted until you can crash the party,” Batman said.

“Exactly.  The only problem is, we don’t know where they’re meeting.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the waterfront area, but--”

Huntress interrupted.  “The back room of the DeNapoli Cannery, aka the ‘Spaghetti Slaughterhouse.’  It’s where Carmona does all his dirty work.”

“How do you know that?” Batman growled.

“Trust me,” she said with a smirk.

 

As the Batmobile took off  toward its destination, Huntress knew she was in for a an earful and prepared herself.

“What the hell were you trying to do back there, show me up?” Batman barked.

Sheesh, Dad, I was just helping you two out.”

“Don’t call me Dad!”

“Sorry, Batman, Sir, Your Lordship.  Parenting is definitely not your strong suit.”

“How do you know so much about Carmona?  I’ve barely heard of him.”

“In my world, he became a major crime boss, and the cannery was his HQ.  He did link up with the Yakuza, and the cops spent the better part of five years bringing down their combined organization.”

“Interesting,” he commented.

“One other thing.  He was involved in Selina’s murder.  Cops couldn’t prove it, of course, thanks to disappearing evidence and dying witnesses.  They did get him on enough other stuff to lock him up for a hundred and twenty years, no parole.”

“Did that satisfy you?”

“Eventually.  Barbara had to do a lot of convincing to get me to see it that way.  At first I wanted to cut his nuts off and shove ‘em down his throat until he choked.”

The Batmobile abruptly halted.

“You give me your word that you won’t go out for revenge tonight, or I’ll do this alone.  If you can’t handle coming face to face with Carmona, you get out of the car right now!  I’d rather see him get away than have you become a one-woman lynch mob.”

She folded her arms indignantly.  “That was how I felt ten years ago.  Don’t you see that history’s already changing?  We’re taking him down tonight, so he won’t become a powerful mobster who kills Mom.  And I’ll be getting another chance at a relationship with her.”

“I’m getting a headache.”

The Batmobile roared off toward the DeNapoli cannery.

 

Batman parked two blocks away, and they went ahead on foot, hidden by the alleyway shadows.  He stopped behind a dumpster and signaled Huntress to crouch.

A single, machine-gun armed enforcer stood at the rear entrance.  As Batman surveyed the situation, he heard a sinewy click.  Reaching up, he grabbed Huntress’ wrist and squeezed it until she dropped her crossbow.

“Hey!  What’d you do that for?”

“We--don’t--kill!” he hissed in anger.

She met his steely gaze.  “You got a quieter way to take that guy out?”

He took a small rubber-coated sphere from his belt and rolled it toward the guard.  Seconds later, it began emitting a hazy mist.  The guard sniffed the air a couple of times, then passed out.

“Guess you showed me,” she whispered as she picked up the crossbow and rubbed her wrist.  “You’re way too uptight about deadly force.  You and Mom both.  Why did I have to get such pacifist parents?  Did you ever think there might be a connection between your aversion to killing and the revolving door at Arkham?”

He pointed at the access ladder to the roof of the cannery.  “Go!”

 

Several blocks to the west, Gordon and Harvey Bullock sat with a SWAT unit.  “It’s eight o’clock,” Bullock grumbled.  What are waiting for?”

“The ‘go’ from Batman,” Gordon answered.

“Great.  Another night playing second fiddle to the Batfreak.”

“Harvey, if it means we get Carmona without me having to attend another undercover officer’s funeral, I’ll play third fiddle.”

 

Inside the cannery, Carmona welcomed Hideki Shinohara and his security entourage.  As they walked in the spacious processing room, Carmona gestured at the machinery.  “We can ship the drugs out in tins just as easily as we do sardines.”

Shinohara looked everything over and nodded slightly.  “Yes.  I believe it will do.  What about the drivers?”

“They do what I tell ‘em.  That’s the great thing about owning the unions—they don’t see anything, they don’t say anything.”

For the first time that evening, Shinohara smiled.

 

On the roof, Batman and Huntress peered through a skylight at the meeting taking place below.  “That’s Shinohara,” he commented.  “He’s head of the Yakuza’s entire East Coast operation.  They must have a lot of confidence in Carmona.”

“Told ya,” she said.

“When this is over, we are having a serious talk about procedures and following rules.”

“I heard about your little lectures from Dick Grayson.  Fortunately, I’ve got thick skin.”

“As thick as your head?” he asked.

“Look who’s talking.”

He saw Carmona and Shinohara walking away.  “They’re headed to Carmona’s office to seal the deal.”

She stepped around him to get a better view.  Her boot came down on a rusted patch, which gave way.  She lost her balance and fell.

He tried to grab her arm but missed, and she plunged backward through the skylight.

 

At the sound of breaking glass, Carmona and the others looked up to see Huntress drop straight into a pile of cardboard boxes.  They also saw the unmistakable form of Batman above them.

The Dark Knight quickly radioed, “Commissioner, now!” before gliding down through the broken skylight to divert attention from the injured Huntress.

He succeeded, as every gun in the room opened fire on him.

 

The boxes broke Huntress’ fall, but the hard landing left her bruised and momentarily disoriented.

It was just enough time for one of Carmona’s thugs to rush up with a gleaming switchblade.  “Say goodbye, fallen angel.”

With a groan, she shook off the cobwebs and rolled aside.  The knife nicked her shoulder, but the resulting pain cleared her head.  Leaping up, she knocked the blade from his hand.  Before he knew what hit him, she whirled around and savagely kicked him under the chin.  She heard his neck snap, and he dropped like a rag doll.

 

Batman made quick work of Carmona’s other henchmen.  A quick strike with a pair of Batarangs disarmed them, and some kickboxing hits sent them down for the count.

Carmona would’ve been disappointed had he stuck around to watch.  Instead, he scurried out a side door, hoping to reach the safety of his office.

Huntress saw him leave, but her attention was focused on one of Shinohara’s strongmen, who pulled out an Uzi and aimed at Batman.  She raised her crossbow and fired.

Piercing his hand, the dart lodged inside the gun.  He doubled over and dropped to the ground, wailing in pain.

Shinohara returned fire as she sought cover behind a stack of boxes.  Meanwhile, Ichiro, his chief bodyguard, raked the area with a blazing machine pistol in each hand.  Some shots ricocheted off the walls and shattered two of the overhead lights.

Huntress took full advantage of the darkness.  By crawling along the floor unseen, she was able to double back and come up behind him.  In a swift movement, she wrapped her arm around his throat and put the crossbow against the back of his neck.

“Drop the guns,” she said firmly.

He could feel the point of the dart at the base of his skull.  The pistols slipped from his hands and clattered to the floor.

The sound of a loud rumble echoed through the cannery, then a SWAT battering ram crashed through the corrugated steel wall.  Outside, squad car lights flashed on while a Gotham PD tactical unit moved in.

Huntress kicked Ichiro away, then ran after Carmona.

Shinohara took aim at her.  Before he could fire, Batman tackled him and ripped the gun away.

Ichiro grabbed his pistols and opened up on anything that moved.  Three tactical officers concentrated fire and brought him down.

Now completely surrounded, the other thugs held up their hands and surrendered.

 

Huntress cornered Carmona outside his office.  She fired a dart into the door, jamming the lock.

Carmona held up his hands and turned on the charm.  “You got me, sweetheart.  What are you going to do?”

“I haven’t decided yet.  You killed my mother once, so I’m damn sure not going to let you do it again!”

He frowned.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I know.”  Showing little emotion, she pointed the crossbow at his crotch.

“Sister, you’re crazy,” he said with a note of fear.

“Nah, it only seems that way.”

“Well, if I did kill your mother, how about I arrange a family reunion?”  He quickly palmed a pistol and pointed it at her chest.

A Batarang flew out of the shadows and knocked the gun from his hand.

“Thanks, Batman,” she said.  “Now, where were we?”  She slowly raised the crossbow.

“Huntress!”  Batman feared she might kill Carmona.

She fired.  The dart pierced his overcoat three inches below his crotch and nailed him to the door.  She fired again, this time pinning his right sleeve.

The mobster fainted from anxiety.

Smiling, Huntress walked past the irritated Batman and headed back to the canning room with him close behind.

Gordon met them.  “Where’s Carmona?”

Huntress pointed back toward the office.  “He’s not going anywhere.”

The commissioner gestured at one of his tactical officers, then turned to Batman.  “Good work.  Carmona and Shinohara in custody, and their plans for a merger completely disrupted.”

Batman glanced at Huntress.  “No telling the pain and misery they might’ve caused had they joined up.”

“Indeed,” Gordon said.  “Fortunately, we’ll never know.”

 

Three minutes into the drive home, Batman unloaded on Huntress.  “I ought to take that crossbow and throw it in the river right now!  You were careless, reckless, and sadistic.  Worst of all, you were a showboat and could’ve gotten yourself killed by Carmona.”

She looked away, knowing he was right, for the most part.

“I’ve never had to work with someone so unpredictable.”  He paused.  “But you still did a good job.  Those same criticisms could’ve been leveled at me when I started.  With some serious training, you might become a valuable member of the team.”

“We just have different methods.  We got the same results.”

“When you work with me, I decide the methods,” he said sternly.  “Is that clear?”

“Loud and,” she replied.  “So, when can I talk to Mom?”

Tired of her raising the subject, he said, “I’ll set up a videoconference when we get in.  Selina needs to share in all this ‘joy.’”

“I know I’m a pain in your ass, but I just want to get to know you again.  Honest.  I kinda enjoyed this little father-daughter dance.  I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Scowling, he asked, “Those happen only once a year, right?”